Back-roads Scotland: Strathpeffer Spa

Telford strathpeffer spa pump house

The village of Strathpeffer is roughly forty-five minutes northwest of Inverness, in the Scottish Highlands. It’s been a popular vacation destination since the Victorian era, when it was celebrated for its sulfur springs. It’s sort of on the route to Brora and and Royal Dornoch. If you’re headed that way on a golf trip and feel like playing an unusual course that none of your friends will have heard of, you should stop at the Strathpeffer Spa Golf Club. The course is barely 5,000 yards long, but it isn’t a pushover, and the scenery is spectacular, and Willie Park, Jr., and Old Tom Morris contributed to the design:P1030258

The first hole, a 330-yard par 4, plays down a vertiginous hill, and if you make a smooth swing, as you almost can’t help doing at that altitude, you can drive the green. According to the club, the tee shot has the longest drop of any hole on any course in Scotland:


The second hole, a 250-yard par 4, plays straight up a different hill, and it’s followed by four consecutive par 3s.


Here’s how severe the elevation changes are: The eighteenth hole is roughly the same length as the first, and the drop from tee to green is almost as long, and the eighteenth green is at almost exactly the same elevation as the first tee—yet the eighteenth tee isn’t the high point on the course.


I followed a junior match, in which the competitors’ caddies—of whom there were five—were frequently unable to agree on which of them was supposed to be carrying what:


The club, which was founded in 1888, has many active, involved members, and because of the topography most of them are as fit as Sherpas. Fifteen years ago, they renovated their clubhouse themselves:

strathpeffer clubhouse

I didn’t spend the night in the village, but I now wish I had—another reason to go back.P1030268